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In part two of our four part Sustainability Series, we look at how a competition winner is tackling the problem of vacant lots.

Experts say St. Louis City could have as many as 20,000 vacant lots. Washington University's Sustainable Land Lab Competition put out the call for teams to come up with unique ways to combat the problem.

Out of the nearly 50 teams that submitted plans to the competition four winners were chosen. The winning groups got $5,000 dollars of seed money to start their projects and a two-year lease on a vacant lot. The Sunflower+ Project was one of the winners and they have a unique idea on how to beautify vacant lots and improve the environment.

"We're planting a field of sunflowers," says Project Lead and Washington University lecturer Donald Koster. He tells KTRS News the sunflower is known as a "hyper-accumulator"--a group of plants that take contaminants out of the soil. Koster says sunflowers have been used to clean up heavy damaged land, "Most notably for me in my research was the use of them in Chernobyl and Fukishima, following the tsunami, to clean up radioactive isotopes."

There is no guarantee on how the sunflowers will perform, but experimentation is at the heart of the land lab competition. The sunflowers are already a foot tall and you can stop by the field at the corner of Warren and 14th Street in North St. Louis.

Tomorrow, we look at a competition that gives city residents the chance to win money to improve their neighborhood.

 

Part one of the series can be found here.

Published in Local News

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